Pfizer drug linked to higher heart failure rate
Small study shows cancer patients taking Pfizer's Sutent suffered 15% rate of heart failure, higher than in clinical trials.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A new study released at a conference on Tuesday shows that Pfizer's cancer drug Sutent may be linked to more instances of heart failure than previously thought.
Some 15% of patients suffered heart failure when taking Sutent, according to results from a small study, announced at the Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco.
The study found that seven out of 48 patients receiving Sutent experienced heart failure. This is a higher rate than previously recognized, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), co-sponsor of the symposium.
Prior results from clinical trials showed an 8% heart failure rate, according to ASCO. The new study, lead by researcher Dr. Melinda Telli of the Stanford University School of Medicine, was not a clinical trial, and tracked patients from 2004 to 2007.
Dr. Telli acknowledged that the study was "limited by the numbers," but said "it's possible that the true incidence of heart failure could be even higher." She said that doctors should conduct routine monitoring of Sutent patients to detect problems with heart function.
Barbara Ryan, analyst for Deutsche Bank North America, said that the issue "probably warrants further investigation," but it's difficult to draw any conclusions, "given the small size of the study."
Sutent is an FDA-approved treatment for cancer of the kidney and digestive system. Sales for the drug totaled $581 million in 2007, up 166% from $219 million the prior year.
Pfizer spokeswoman Vanessa Aristide said that Pfizer has not had an opportunity to review the data. But she stressed that cardiovascular events are acknowledged on Sutent safety labels, along with recommendations for monitoring patients with cardiac risk factors.